A Word on Wednesday: Vacancy

Generally, the modern use of the noun vacancy is only considered in context of its opposite: “No Vacancy.” And, No Vacancy seems preferred.

Vacancy means there a room at the lodge, an empty office for rent, an unassigned seat on the bus (or the supreme court), an open position at the firm. This common use of vacancy developed around the mid 1950s.

However, a British dictionary first defines vacancy as “the state or condition of being vacant or unoccupied.” This seems close to the archaic definition: “absence of activity, idleness,” which originated from Medieval Latin.

Americans are used to operating at capacity.
Our days, closets, vacations, and hearts are full.

Vacancy is a rarity, at times, it’s created only by a cancellation.

“No Vacancy” is celebrated with every yes to an invitation, to an extra project, to bids from a neighbor, friend, or family member.

With urgency, vacancy is extinguished every day with busyness. Get a second job, learn another language, get the advanced degree, participate in secular and religious practices, cook seven days of meals in a single day!

Carpe Diem. Live life to the fullest.

However, please reserve space for vacancy this winter.


A Word on Wednesday: Hope

 The abstract hope cannot be illustrated beyond the four letters it contains.
Hope, when used as a verb, is seemingly without action. We cannot see someone hoping. Hope doesn’t sound like much more than “wishful thinking,” which cannot be measured or observed.
The expression, “all we can do now is hope,” marks this action as one of last resort. When all efforts to control a situation fail, only hope remains, until even that is sometimes lost.
What if we started with hope?
As a noun hope is confidence in the future. The word’s actual synonyms include courage, optimism, expectation. Its opposite is despair.
In contrast, a wish is more of request or a bid, and dreams are imaginings or visions. Likewise, to want is to yearn. Hope, though, steadfastly remains a reasonable assurance, just as it was at its origin in Old English, c.1200.
Hope, then, becomes the action of the strong and resilient. In silent elegance, one can hope with just a breath.
I close with these words from John Lennon, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”


A Word on Wednesday: Chapbook

A few chapbooks in my collection by Wisconsin poets:
Jean Biegun, LaMoine MacLaughlin, and Stephen P. Mickey.

The noun chapbook was coined in the early Nineteenth Century by combining the words chapman and book. This small paperback book, oftentimes just a mere pamphlet, is likely as old as print itself.

Historically, it contained tales, ballads, or tracts sold by peddlers or merchants. Later, its content was narrowed to selections of short fiction or poems. The publication and its distribution fell out of favor.

Today, few prose writers create chapbooks.

Poets, however, remain drawn to the form as a vehicle to publish.

Typically, chapbooks are independently published. Although, there are imprints, such as Black Lawrence Press, that publish the peripheral collections.

The selection of poems is generally tied to a theme or a poetic form. Yet, there are no hard rules or guidelines. Some include illustrations; others don’t. Length varies from as few as fifteen to as many as thirty. The process of creating a chapbook allows a poet to think about the organization and merit of her verse.

Most writers were first poets — composing frenzied lines of free verse to purge an emotion or, more favorably, deliberately playing with language to capture a moment of truth.

Left raw, these drafts remain the practice of an amateur. Left alone, they lack context and purpose. Individual poems fall short of significance.

Working on a chapbook makes way for clarity by forcing discovery of a reason for the practice of writing at all. Each poem must be examined for precision and clarity. Tied with a unifying thread, chapbooks brand a poet’s observations and construction of thought.

Chapbooks indulge the poet’s audacity, allowing her to print her name on the cover and own the lines inside. These, inexpensive stapled sheets of paper, are bids for attention to a writer.

“See me. Notice me. Give my work a look.”

The peddler, cloaked in the smug light of literary culture, whispers politely those desperate pleas.

Disclosure: My first chapbook, “A Stop Along the Way,” will be released in early 2017.

A Friendly Observation: Suffer

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the word suffer. 
You can read my unfavorable take on the word here

A reader, Nissa Enos, responded with this tolerant, lighthearted take on “suffer.” 

Suffers From

I agree with Tara that it is condescending to say someone “suffers from” situation such as depression, cancer, etc. Using the phrase emphasizes victim hood. Instead, it would be more accurate and useful to focus on how the person has drawn on inner strengths, matured their perspectives and learned to carry on with being alive.

There is however one case in which it is appropriate to use “suffers from.” That case is when we mean it in the properly derogatory sense of the term.

We may say that someone suffers from halitosis, or bad manners, or poor spelling, or having a foul mouth, or being too dumb to know they are dumb. Unlike in the cancer and depression examples, this person hasn’t met an extra challenge that occasioned them to become above-average in knowing how to be alive. Quite the opposite. They have refused to step up to the basic challenge levels that everyone needs to have mastered in order to spend time pleasantly around other human beings.

While we say someone suffers from a condition, it is in fact all of us around them who suffer. “He suffers from halitosis” really means, “He is wholly unaware of and untroubled by his halitosis, but the rest of us must suffer because of it.” Likewise, in the case of “She suffers from sociopathy,” she is definitely the only one in the scene who is not suffering from the sociopathy. Au contraire, she probably gets big kicks out of it. At everyone else’s expense, of course. Many people would agree that “Beavis and Butthead suffer from having grotesque laughter.” Again, it is not the boys who suffer from the mouth-breather-y, ceaseless, inane laughter, but us.

“Suffers from” is not appropriate where the person met with a challenge that they could not help, and where they had to gain above-average internal strength in order to survive the challenge. It is appropriate though where the challenges are remediable and where the person fails to meet the bare-minimun self-skills necessary for social interaction and for managing their life.

A Word on Wednesday: Disappointed

I’m disappointed.
I could be angry, but I am too tired.
The world is too loud to be heard.
Hopefully, not too many more people have to die.
Hopefully, we can stop greed and arrogance.
Hopefully, we can truly love and care for one another as neighbors.


A Word on Wednesday: Writer’s Block


This noun with one, and only one, definition is a legitimate dictionary entry; its origin traceable to 1945. “A usually temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to precede with the writing b0c0e-writers2bblock2bof a novel, play or other work.” 

Take comfort; it is usually temporary.

However, beware of Writer’s Block’s cousin: “Blank Page Syndrome.” These ails are apt to keep charlatans, ahem writing coaches, in business. 


A Word on Wednesday: Bombastic



Used to describe this fright:

Photo Credit: CNBC


A Word on Wednesday: Restore

Today, I celebrate the word restore. 

Photo Credit

The verb restore is one to use in prose, poetry, and conversation. It is precise in its promise of righting wrongs. The practice of restoring requires faith in bringing back the authenticity of the original. Restoring provides the opportunity to make whole again.Restore’s intended use with an object has resonating applications for both concrete and abstract nouns.

Photo Restoration 

Concretely, one can restore furniture, paintings, photographs, jewelry, buildings, vehicles, musical instruments, clothing, statues, or documents. This is not to be confused with replicating or replacing.

The action word restore is also one to practice in living.

And here, I refer to abstract objects — the ideas, the man made constructs:

Photo Credit



  • Faith
  • Trust
  • Friendship
  • Health
  • Hope
  • Vigor
  • Confidence
  • Strength
  • Love
  • Peace
  • Order
  • Self

This abstract restoration offers the best chance at sustaining our most authentic self. Listen to your genuine cravings for well being to restore what becomes lost in the busyness of living.

A Word on Wednesday: Suffer

Using the verb suffer with an object is one of my word choice pet peeves. The culprit is the acceptable definition  No. 5: “to undergo, be subjected to, or endure (pain, distress, injury, or anything unpleasantness).Consider when the object of the sentence is an illness:

She suffers from diabetes.
He suffers from cancer.
I suffer from bipolar disorder.
Now consider the same idea told with a different action verb. The subject of the sentence sounds stronger in every instance.
She manages her diabetes.
He lives with cancer.
I treat my bipolar disorder.

I blame well-meaning writing coaches for campaigning against the use of passive language. We are taught the following statements are weak.

She has diabetes.
He has cancer.
I have bipolar disorder.

So rather than clearly and objectively stating a condition, writers are supposed to replace the passive “has” with an active verb. Suffer, then, does the trick; it is dramatic.  The word itself is pronounced with a softness, a weakness, a helplessness: [suhf-er]. It does not sound tough.

When one defines her reality as suffering, it reinforces a victim mentality. Perhaps a person faces disease, compensates for disability, accepts illness, embraces challenge. Perhaps the pain associated with the disease is manageable.

Recently, I read “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” by Haruki Murakami and the following line gave me pause. I tossed it back and forth in my mind.

“Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”

I find Murakami’s observation logical and true. I also find it comforting. It encourages one to accept the pain and face it.

When we talk about having an illness “suffering is optional.”

The word I would use instead of suffer is one of graceful strength.


One can endure the pain, weather the storm, and carry on.

A Word on Wednesday: Mining


Mining seems a straightforward word, boring even, completely understood on its face.

It can be a noun or a verb depending on if it is used to describe the industrial act of mining or the action of mining. It is derived from variations of the word mineral. (Reference Dictionary)
However, when the word mining is used as a verb with an object, it gets to the core of the magic of the word.


The verb when used with an object means TO DIG IN or TO EXTRACT, most commonly referring to the earth or rock in order to obtain ores, coal, etc.
Going a bit deeper, another definition, (No. 15), is “to avail oneself of or draw useful or valuable material from.”

If you would like to see some images of the immense impact of mining here is a quick google image search. This type of digging in and unearthing is paramount to success as a writer.

Everyone has seen the surface. Everyone has ideas.

Be a pioneer, burrow in, and draw out something of value. Pull it from the dirt. Examine its authenticity.

Take this resource to your crafting table and create.

My most popular workshop is “Mining Memories: Jump Start Your Memoir.” You may find more information about it and other workshops at my Website.